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Are German cities really offering people free transport if they hand in their driving licence?

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Are German cities really offering people free transport if they hand in their driving licence?
An advertisement for the Deutschlandticket in front of a train at the main station in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Some German cities and districts are offering the €49 transport pass to people who hand in their driving licence to authorities. We explain how the offers work.


Germany wants people to leave their cars at home and embrace public transport more often, and the €49 monthly travel pass - or Deutschlandticket - introduced earlier this year aims to encourage this behaviour. 

But some German cities are going even further by offering people the chance to hand in their driving licence to authorities in return for a free Deutschlandticket. This ticket allows people to use local public transport and regional trains all over Germany, but ICE trains are off limits. 

READ ALSO: €49 travel ticket prompts big rise in Deutsche Bahn passenger numbers

Although these schemes are just coming to light through reports in the German and French press (as the French get ready to introduce their own version of the €49 ticket), these exchanges have existed in Germany for some time for senior citizens. Since the Deutschlandticket launched in May, they have been opened up to other groups. 

The exchange offers vary depending on the location - while the Ennepe-Ruhr district in western Germany and Lübeck in the north, for example, offer an annual subscription to waive your driving license, in Dortmund you get the ticket free of charge for two months.

German driving licence
Two German driver's licences. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ole Spata

However, surrendering your driving license is permanent. From a legal perspective, the return should be viewed as a waiver; the document will not be valid again when the free subscription expires, Berlin lawyer Sascha von Eicken told German newspaper Welt. That means if you want to drive again, you'll have to complete driving lessons and tests to get a brand new licence. 

Here's a look at how this offer works in some areas:

Lübeck: If you give up your driving licence in Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, you can travel free of charge for a year with the Deutschlandticket on local public transport and regional trains throughout the Hanseatic city and other parts of Germany. That's a saving of €588. The campaign is a three-year pilot project with a limited number of tickets. In 2023, a maximum of 1,000 Deutschlandtickets will be issued, and 500 in each of the following two years. You should think carefully about it - the city's advice on this offer states clearly that you'll never get your driving licence back if you hand it in. 


Dortmund: If you want to leave your car behind and use the bus and train for free for two months, this is possible in Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia. The city says: "As a small thank you for your decision (to hand in your licence), you will receive the Deutschlandticket for two months in exchange for your driving license. Please hand in your driving license to the City of Dortmund – Citizen Services. You will receive a certificate there to pick up your monthly ticket at one of our customer centres."

Leverkusen: In Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia, people over 75 have the opportunity to get a free one-year subscription to the Deutschlandticket in exchange for giving up their driving licence. Anyone interested can hand in their licence in return for a voucher that can be converted into a Deutschlandticket at a 'wupsi' transport centre point.

Bonn: The former German capital, also in North Rhine-Westphalia, allows anyone over the age of 60 to get a Deutschlandticket or an 'Aktiv60' ticket free of charge for six months in exchange for their driving licence. "If you are interested in one of these tickets, you can fill out the 'Driver License Waiver' form or make an appointment to voluntarily give up your driving license," says the city.


Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis: This offer in the Ennepe-Ruhr district in North Rhine-Westphalia sparked excitement. Anyone who wanted to permanently switch to local transport and give up their driving licence could apply. A total of 130 people applied for a year of free travel with the Deutschlandticket, however this was too many for the municipality. The district selected 20 people at random in April. The oldest person was 90, while the youngest was 28. "It was difficult for us to estimate demand in advance," said Michael Schäfer of the Road Traffic Department. "We are surprised at how many citizens from the district are interested in the offer."


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Elvis 2023/09/16 12:00
Whoever contemplated this scheme must have been on drugs or in a drunken stupor. No one in their right mind will give up their licence on a permanent basis to appease a government iniatiative that proposes a preposterous exchange that needs serious rethink.
Some dude 2023/09/15 16:46
"That means if you want to drive again, you'll have to complete driving lessons and tests to get a brand new licence." Doing driving lessons again?! LOL, never then. You can keep your free pass. That's a bad deal; I can't imagine someone (sane) doing that.

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